Arrested for Speaking Spanish…? South Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys share Common Policing Mistakes

a road sign says Se Habla Español, as it's on an article about a Domestic Violence arrest made because a man spoke spanish and misunderstood policeThe purpose of having a police force is to ensure the safety of the local community. Police are responsible for public safety, namely, making sure that people abide by the law and don’t cause harm to others. We teach our children to respect police officers, and appreciate the service they provide us.

In my experience practicing criminal and DUI law in Fort Lauderdale and all of South Florida, unfortunately, there are too many times when the police have the opposite effect—they make us feel unsafe.

A misunderstanding and a language barrier turned arrest in South Florida

For one of our clients, the police created a nightmare situation for him just because Spanish was his first language, and he had trouble understanding what they were yelling at him in English.

Before I jump into this story, I want to clarify that I’m not anti-cop. Not all cops are bad, and not all cops are good. That’s just the way it is. But I am anti-bad cop. And this case was one of those situations where the cop couldn’t care less about justice.

My client, Juan, was from Venezuela. He and his family had been in the U.S. for a few years already, but English was still difficult for him. 

In his profession, he dealt mostly with South American companies, so at work and home he primarily spoke Spanish (which we all know is fairly common in South Florida, and certainly not out of the ordinary).

When Juan and his wife got into an argument one night over his 22-year-old stepson, who is a disciplinary nightmare who was still living at home, the stepson (who did not like Juan at all) called the police hoping to get Juan in trouble. Neither Juan nor his wife knew the police had even been called until an officer showed up on their doorstep.

Juan answered the door. His wife was standing a few feet behind him in the living room. Her face was flushed from yelling, but she had no bruising or marks anywhere on her body. The officer informed Juan that someone had called in to say there was a domestic violence situation.

Juan tried to explain that there must be a misunderstanding, but the officer refused to listen. He started firing off incriminating questions at Juan in English. When Juan tried to explain that he couldn’t understand what the officer was asking, the officer placed him under arrest.

Juan’s wife started protesting when she saw the officer take out his handcuffs. But the officer didn’t listen to her either. He hauled Juan out to the cop car and took him down to the station for booking for a domestic violence crime.

Once he saw the judge, Juan posted bail, but unfortunately he could not go home. There was a no contact order in place pursuant to the criminal domestic charges against him, meaning he was unable to initiate any kind of communication with his wife.

That’s where Rossen Law Firm comes into the situation.
Now, we were able to get the charges against Juan dismissed, but the damage was already done. He had a mugshot online, which is almost impossible to get rid of, he had a criminal charge against him - which goes on your record the moment you’re arrested, not the moment you’re convicted - spent the night in jail, and racked up expensive legal fees to pay. He also underwent a lot of stress, was afraid he might lose the ability to see his children, and was worried about potentially losing his job, too.

And the really frustrating part of this situation is that if the cop had taken a few minutes to speak with both Juan and his wife at their home, this whole awful situation could have been avoided. 

Have you been arrested due to a language barrier in South Florida? Or due to an alleged domestic violence situation

Reach out to Rossen Law Firm today by filling out the contact form on this page, speaking with our live chat operator, or calling our office now. We’re here for you in any way that you need.

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Attorney Adam Rossen
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South Florida Criminal & DUI Defense Attorney
1 Comments
Very unfortunate what happened to Mr. Juan. At least he got a good lawyer to defend him and get him out of that situation. No one is anti-cop but unfortunately the have to be judged by their actions and unfortunately they keep acting and doing this things again and again. I refuse to accept this is the "new normal" and Law Enforcement cannot be regulated. It is very sad to think that some people over there had the opportunity to make things better and make some changes...but no, they think the system will collapse, so lets keep it this way and lets turn our sight to the other side.
by Manuel May 10, 2018 at 09:54 AM
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